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PLAN SANTA BARBARA: Is It Really Adapting In Today’s Fast Changing Environment?

by Geoffery Bard Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Some Thoughts Regarding Item 8. For Agenda of August 10, 2010

TO: The Honorable Helene Schneider, Mayor, and City Council

FROM: Geoffery Bard, Coastal Allied Public Policy Information Team

RE: PLAN SANTA BARBARA: Is It Really Adapting In Today’s Fast Changing Environment? Some Thoughts Regarding Item 8. For Agenda of August 10, 2010 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT S ubject: Plan Santa Barbara, Summary Direction (650.05)

ABSTRACT: Plan rests on a tentative and almost skeptical attitude towards climate change, which is become a more certain established know with each tick of the clock; plan is inadequate in addressing public policy management of both native and incoming homeless poor persons, probably due to a skewed franchise in which such persons are not exercising influence over the policy process; and the plan does not utilize emergency community resilience model, relying instead on the sustainability model, itself an improvement over antiquated financial analysis models such as profit maximization, return on investment, etc., but which said model fails to accommodate a full component of unintended consequence costs and fails to incorporate a vision of community resilience and survivability in the face of potential natural disaster, social unrest, terrorist incident, infectious disease outbreak or other stressors on the social fabric


Thank you for your diligence, thoughtfulness and open mindedness, all of you, throughout your work, and particularly with regard to the Plan. I regret that I have not participated more than I have, but I would like to offer a conceptual critique. This is not offered in a polemical spirit but rather as a heads up and warning that despite the hard work put into this plan, it will be obsolete, to some degree, before the ink is dry. That does not mean that it lacks value and integrity, only that it is an attempt to fix itself in a moment of time, to address the future, and, although it will suffice to establish a sense of settled law regarding building heights and transportation philosophies and such, it will be an uneasy settlement on many levels. It is more like a working truce than an armistice, but the forces of nature will proceed regardless. Unforseen events will proceed regardless.

My sense of duty as a citizen tells me that it is better to expose myself to criticism, censure, catty remarks, and the whole gamut of cynical backbiting which exists in the political arena today than to remain silent and fail to share my perspectives with my fellow citizens. These remarks are offered with faith in this process, in democracy, in Americans, and some degree of faith that Santa Barbara County, and the City of Santa Barbara, are special, and that there is a decidedly better class of leadership possible here than in the vast majority of cities and counties around. Without pretending to have any special gift, I humbly submit these unedited perspectives for your perusal, knowing that my trust and faith in my fellow citizens will not be betrayed by a harsh toxic spirit of argumentation, ad hominen and spinmeisterkraft.

As the effects of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere make themselves known, we will find ourselves beset by ever-yet more fierce storms swells, food price and energy price spikes, drought and erosion worldwide increasing pressure upon poor subsistence farmers to make their way here, more displaced laid off workers and aging baby boomers becoming homeless while the Enron and Sachs-Goldman types pad their offshore accounts in Lichtenstein, the Cayman Islands, or wherever they pirate their ill gotten gains. Such persons, and Saudi shieks, and various billionaires will play upon your class prejudices and seek to convince you that a rich foreigner with a checkered past makes a better neighbor than a penniless American or a Chicano-Mejicano with relatives and a long work history in Santa Maria. There will be efforts to convince you to look the other way as plunderers bring their millions to Santa Barbara County and urge you to overlook their financial crimes and the human rights abuses in their sweat shops, and count them for good fellows well met. And there will be efforts to convince you that a footloose and carefree guitar player fresh out of the California community college system should be treated as an undesirable vagrant simply because he or she has not quite yet figured out how to come up with first and last month’s rent, security deposit, utility deposit.

Nothing in the Plan adequately addresses the looming problem we face a global climate change pressure spark all manner of political demagoguery. Nothing in the plan provides assurance that there will be a full proper and adequate system to sort the malingerers and parasites from the folks who need a hand in obtaining suitable lodging or holistic health care which is appropriate to their body-mind and finances. Nothing provides assurance that the ideologies offered up by, say, Big Pharma, Big Oil or Big Nuclear will be offset by a radical critique by which I mean a critique which goes to the roots and takes into its account all of modern conservative, liberal political thinking yes even radical and libertarian critiques. Deep ecology; the labeling theory of criminology; even, shallow though it may seem, the perhaps legitimate perspectives offered by the Milton Friedman- Ayn Rand crowd, whose most useful concept is encapsulated by the salutary book title, Free to Choose.

The premise underlying Plan Santa Barbara is sustainability, and, salutary as that may be, the state of the art, evolving Community Resilience Model is surpassing it. The Sustainability Model evolved in the 1980's as a response to critique put forth by the Reagan Administration, Actually, it was not so much a critique as a civil war conducted with pen and ink and words and ballots.The Ann Gorsuch/James Watt attack was not, pardon the pun, not sustainable, and in due course they both received richly deserved pink slips. But I join many other progressive democrats in a gruding respect for Ronald Reagan, just as many Republicans have a grudging respect for Bill Clinton who, after all, operated with a conscientious fiscal conservatism which made George W look like the reckless big spender in comparison.

Despite the Achilles heel of the Reagan administration, which was its utterly dismal attitude toward solar collectors and fuel efficient cars and responsible use of the atom...its actually a very long list...Reagan was, in the final analysis, much closer to the Barry Goldwater conscience than any Republican President since the Arizona Senator's landslide defeat in 1968.Among the many salutory achievements of the Reagan years was that he spurred environmentalism to develope the sustainability model.

Sustainable economic development as a paradigm for policy development was a no-brainer and became immensely popular. It was a hit and it “went platinum.” Organizations such as the Rainforest Action Network put aside adversarial politics and ideology and lobbied corporation directly to adopt a corporate sustainability model and today companies such as Proctor and Gamble enjoy a decided preference for socially responsible investing, and planning departments world wide take sustainable growth as a given. Indeed, George Herbert Walker even declared that his would be the environmental presidency, and many republicans have made a name for themselves in the party, after all, not only of Abraham Lincoln, but of Teddy Roosevelt, as well.

But, to quote one of my favorite folk singers, the times they are changing. It is no longer sufficient to speak only of sustainability because sustainability presumes a stable environment. But we have faced stressors such a forest fires and flooding and concomitant highway closures, oil spills and potentially problems with terrorist incidents, water supply disruption, global food shortages, earthquakes, rising seas or even, God forbid, a discharge from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, from which we are, after all, down wind.

A recent review of the Chernobyl data has disclosed that previous sanguine assessments of that event were in error. The harm from Cherobyl exceeds that which had been previously reported. Santa Barbara must plan expressly for all forseeable emergency and disaster events, including an earth quake related compromise of the reactor core and containment.

Of course, it is important not to in any manner encourage, empower, or even permit any form of fear mongering or panic. But Americans have made it through 9-11, numerous terrorist incidents thereafter, and for that matter, two world wars, a civil war and a whole lot else.

Nevertheless, failure to plan is to plan failure.

The Santa Barbara Plan rests on a tentative and almost skeptical attitude towards climate change, which is become a more certain established know with each tick of the clock. I recommend the most recent edition of Lester Brown’s Plan B 3.0. He is a very well know, highly regarded author of many books and director of World Watch Institute. His books are used as texts in many college classes and probably in better high schools world wide. Ignorance of his perspective, if it is willful and continuous, is tantamount to professional negligence.

The Plan is inadequate in addressing public policy management of both native and incoming homeless poor persons. I have been utterly appalled by the trend on council over the past year or two in treating the issue of downtown panhandlers as though same constituted the sum total of something called “the homeless problem.” It is not that. It is merely the down town panhandler problem.

The so called approach of this council is really how to mitigate complaints from business owners downtown and on Milpas. It should not be called the council’s response to the homeless issue it should be called the council’s self-preservation in the face of strident small business owners. Pardon the tone of sarcasm.

To establish common ground, I concede that some of the panhandlers are obnoxious. In fact, I occasionally play music in front to the Granada and elsewhere, something I have often done at the request of business owners who pay me to perform Bach, Vivaldi or fiddle tunes. Panhandlers are an arch nuisance for me when I do so. But I notice that a putatively progressive commentator in some local periodical seems to equate guitarists with panhandlers with “homeless”. I suppose if Segovia could rise from the grave and perform at the farmers’ market, he would be presumed to be a homeless rail road tramp and perhaps a patrolman could be dispatched to give him a ticket for trespassing. After all, the farmer’s market could be arguably construed as private property.

Santa Barbara politics have utterly strangled street musicians. Compared to San Diego, San Francisco, Portland or Seattle, we are pushing our street culture into the status of a backwater. Santa Cruz has a similar pathology, although it has a vigorous fightback which is in itself as obnoxious as the problem it seeks to address.

The Plan should have a component of encouraging quality street performers, any craft guild they care to create. The Plan should spell out that bona fide craftsmen and artisans who comply with vending ordinances will not be harassed. But the patrol officers whose job it is to surveil the presumed homeless are treated to blandishments and accolades as though they were Greek gods avenging the polis against barbarian interlopers. They receive all this great praise for hassling guitar kids when the gang unit and the homicide investigators and the domestic violence prosecutors are overlooked and even our hard working and courageous new District Attorney is vilified as though she was a Tammany Hall appointee rather than a duly elected public servant. Seriously, we treat our incumbent DA so poorly and act as if the hobo patrol is the summum bonnum of Western civilization. I have no problem with the City patrol officer on that beat, whatsoever, but I find it disturbing that the unpopularity of his wards sets him up for greater public support than the specialists in the gritty, often grim job of bringing in the well financed organized gangsters who take positions behind a web of lawyers and illicit armamentaria. To be blunt, we praise the suppression of unsightly alcoholics in the business corridors and neglect to pay proper and due respect to officers who have fallen in the line of duty. It is a real disconnect and it is rooted in our own class biases. I am as guilty of this class prejudice as anyone on counsel and the business owners who have expressed concern. In short, the Plan is skewed against the needy and does little to mitigate the temptation to regard the poor as mere public nuisances rather than fellow citizens who need help.

My recommendation regarding the so called homeless problem is that the first “hand out” should be voter registration certificates. Contrary to the bad advice some campaign public relations consultant gave to a good mayoral candidate, homeless people are not looking for handouts any more than any one else (oil companies, timber interests, PG&E). What they need is the self respect of fully enfranchised citizenry, and a voter education and registration initiative would be dirt cheap. It could even be free of all cost to the taxpayers. Joe Holland works on salary, he does not charge by the registrant.

The plan does not utilize emergency community resilience model, relying instead on the sustainability model, itself an improvement over antiquated financial analysis models. The sustainability model seeks to incorporate a vision of off balance sheet costs. But it is still beholden to the tunnel vision by which we enthrone profit maximization, return on investment, return on equity,etc. These are useful guides to capital but they do not incorporate off-balace sheet costs. Part of the problem is that when the Reagan administration came in there was an entrenchment of a quantitative view of tax law where cutting the overall tax rate was the main objective. That view persists. But what the TEA movement overlooks is the qualitative impacts of tax policy. For instance, if instead of taxing the publisher of school textbooks you tax air polluters you offset the cost of increased rates of respiratory distress which has to be paid for by tax dollars and private dollars. For an exactly identical amount of taxation you have lower costs to the taxpayer for emergency room visits and hospital stays by uninsured sufferers of COPD (respiratory disease).

Finally, the Plan is based on the sustainability model but does not incorporate a model of community resilience and survivability in the face of potential natural disaster, social unrest, terrorist incident, infectious disease outbreak or other stressors on the social fabric. I learned about this emergency model in the course of a workshop at the Firehouse on Carrillo Street.

To quote a USAID/NOAA project in Indonesia: “ The Coastal Community Resilience (CCR) initiative is…. Building on local knowledge and needs,this effort supports integrated and more standardized hazard awareness and mitigation efforts that improve public safety during emergencies and builds preparedness against ecurring disasters.”

We need to do that in Santa Barbara. This actually came up during a discussion of the Isla Vista Planning process at UCSB, where there was good agreement that emergency and disaster planning needs to be better integrated with general planning. The way things are now, we have one group that’s talking about floor to area ratios and cars and bulbouts and all of the routine stuff and another group that’s talking about tsunamis and fires and earthquakes. It should all be integrated and it should bear in mind that there are many disenfranchised persons, including some who are not citizens but who are here, resident and as our fellow humans need to be accounted for in our planning, along, for that matter with flora and fauna and all of the natural resources which in our over-compartmentalized planning process are perhaps left out of the loop.

Thank you for considering these points, I hope they are help ful. They are submit too late in the process to be particularly useful in the plan per se, but as we move forward we can be aware of its limitations and we can perhaps adapt, respond and thrive regardless of the inherent and contingent shortcoming of any plan.

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